1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

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Tom from Cornwall
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1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 09 Jul 2010 22:00

I have been looking through the war diary for 5 Camerons, 51 (Highland) Division for June 1944 and found an interesting appendix referring to the 13 June attack on the village of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette in Normandy in the Orne bridgehead. After capturing the village relatively easily it seems that the Camerons were caught on the hop by a counter attack by German infantry and "14 tanks". The battalion defence seems to have collapsed, with the various companies retreating in different directions and the general disorder leading to the "result that for some hours small parties of men were seen crossing the bridge in search of the Bn area" to the west of the River Orne. One of the factors that appears to have caused this apparently precipitate collapse was the fact that supporting arms appear to have been limited to three 6-pdr anti-tank guns, which seems extraordinary given the fact that the attack seems to have been first ordered on the 11 June so there should have been enough time to arrange heavier support, armour perhaps?

I have several questions:
1. i imagine the opposition was from 21 Panzer Division but has anyone any idea of strength of the counter attack or any accounts from the German side.
2. It appears the Camerons fell back through the Royal Ulster Rifles (airborne) at Ranville, does anyone know of any accounts of the action from their point of view.
3. Although I have heard of the "problems" that 51 Division had in Normandy and am aware that the Div commander was sacked early in July I have not read any specific criticism of this operation in any of the many general accounts of Normandy that I have read. Any suggestions why this would be so?
4. 5 Camerons casualties were recorded in the War Diary as "8 Officers and 107 Other Ranks, of whom 29 were Killed", given the rather unseemly haste of the collapse does anyone know if the Germans record taking any prisoners that day?
5. Given that this was meant to be the start of the eastern arm of an encirclement of Caen (the western arm being Op Perch which ended at Villers Bocage) it seems incredible that the bn attack was not given tank support - does anyone know if 51 Division had attached armour at this point?

All in all 13 June 1944 was not a good day for the 5th Camerons - however, they redeemed themselves 10 days later when with more support they captured and held the village against equally strong opposition.

Regards

Tom

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Attrition
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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Attrition » 20 Aug 2010 21:30

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Normandy-Campai ... 136&sr=1-2

I think there's a mention of this in here. The sequel was handled much better.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 21 Aug 2010 16:44

Attrition,

Yes, that's where I first saw the reference to the reports and then went to the National Archives to get the actual documents. :) The article in that book by Terry Copp started me to thinking that maybe the Allies tactical ability in Normandy was better than some historians would have us believe, so I thought I would try and follow up by finding some more details out for myself. Along the way I seem to have developed a bit of a "fad" for 51st Division units and battles, and wanted to see if the bad press the division gets is fair or not. Perhaps I'll put some thoughts down here when I get some spare time.

I was hoping to find some evidence of the battles from the "other side of the hill", but it seems there is little information available. :(

Oh well, back to the archives for me to see if I can find anything else. :D :D

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Tom

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Attrition » 21 Aug 2010 17:21

Thanks Tom, I got the impression that Monty's carping criticism was tongue-in-cheek and intended to deflect criticism rather than a considered professional opinion. Good luck in the archives. http://ethos.bl.uk/Home.do has 'The Market Garden campaign : Allied Operational Command in northwest Europe, 1944, Cirillo, Roger.' which is a breath of fresh air on what was possible, especially early on in the invasion, if you havn't seen it.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 21 Aug 2010 18:18

Yes,

I've just had a very quick look and it seems, from a very brief look admittedly, to give Montgomery credit where it was due and point out the restrictions under which the Normandy campaign where actually fought rather than ignore them as most armchair generals/historians are wont to do. :lol:

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Attrition » 21 Aug 2010 19:23

Yes, I've only managed to dip in but he seems quite rigorous on what was possible and how well it was achieved. I thought that he leant too heavily on D'Este at times but that's understandable.

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Attrition » 19 Nov 2010 22:18

I've just noticed tat there are a few mentions of the 51st and St Honorine in Fields of Fire by Terry Copp.

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by The_Enigma » 26 Nov 2010 11:46

Tom from Cornwall wrote:armour perhaps?

... it seems incredible that the bn attack was not given tank support - does anyone know if 51 Division had attached armour at this point?
Hi Tom

Bit of a late reply, my understanding was that the 4th Armoured Brigade was supposed to move over the Orne in support of the Highlanders after it landed but for whatever reasons it never did straight away (i cant remember the source in which i read that, so it is entirely possible it was never ordered to do so before mid month), it was deployed in the centre.

According to the following website on the desert rats (a bit dubious and wrong in sections of the site but pretty ok for a general outline imo); from the 13th "... until the 25th June, the Brigade was engaged in supporting 51st (Highland) Division and 3rd Canadian Division ..."

Doesn’t seem to provide specifics but seems rather spread out and of course it is well after the date you mentioned. The only other armoured unit in the area was the 27th and they were supporting 3rd Inf around Caen were they not, during the time period of the Cameron attack in mention?

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Richard Sands » 13 Jun 2018 10:07

My Father was involved in both the actions at St Honorine. The general feeling amongst the troops at the time was "not us again". Some of the criticism should be tempered with the fact that the battalion was not at full strength. The Camerons had been split into 3 landing parties, D+1. D+7 & D+14. The D+7 comprising 6 officers and 152 other ranks should have been available for the 13th June, they actually arrived 25th June, D+14 arrived in July.

At the start of the barrage preceding the attack, the first shells fell short on the forward companies causing casualties before they had begun to move. None of the Authors who are quick to criticise, have never mentioned these facts. At the time, a normal rifle company was in the region of 100 men. At the 1st battle at St Honorine, my Fathers company, "D" company had approx. 60 men. My Father was awarded the Military Medal for his actions at the 1st St Honorine.

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 13 Jun 2018 19:49

Richard,

Thanks for the post, I can quite imagine your father and the rest of the Camerons thinking "oh god, not us again". They had already certainly seen plenty of war.

I also thought it might be worth adding a bit more of the war diary as context and for further details of the engagement (WO171/1270):
11 June 1944 Benouville
All quiet. Bn ordered to attack Ste. Honorine la Chardonenette on 12th June. C.O. and Company Commanders recced the battle area during which time Brigade informed us that the attack was postponed for 24 hours. A Church Service was held at 1800 hrs by the S.C.F. Maj. W.C.B. [?] Smith.

12 June 1944
All quiet. Bn spent day in preparing for the coming battle.
1800 Bn moved to concentration area on east bank of Canal east of River Orne and lay up until 0200 hrs 13th.

13 June 1944
Engagement at Ste. Honorine la Chardonerette. Appendix A

14 June 1944 Longueval
0630 Bn relieved 2nd Bn Royal Ulster Rifles at Longueval.
Capt. T.B.M. Lamb promoted Captain and appointed Adjutant vice Capt E.P.M. Brown.
Lt. W.M. Milne appointed Intelligence Officer vice Capt. Lamb.
And Appendix A in full:
APPENDIX A
THE ENGAGEMENT AT STE. HONORINE LA CHARDONERETTE

In order to strengthen and enlarge the bridgehead established by the 6th Airborne Division on the East bank of the River ORNE, it was decided to capture the village of STE. HONORINE LA CHARDONERETTE. The attack was to be carried out by 5 CAMERONS behind a barrage just before dawn on the 13 Jun 44. The Start Line was the South East edge of the orchards in front of LONGUEVAL which was held by 2nd ROYAL ULSTER RIFLES, and the route thither was along the towpath which was covered from the enemy to the East by a high escarpment. A very steep track led from the towpath up into LONGUEVAL and this made it impossible to bring the battle transport by this route. The only alternative was to bring it by the road from RANVILLE which ran over the slight rise known as Hill 30. It had been ascertained that this was held by the enemy and it was accordingly arranged that the 12th DEVONS from RANVILLE should attack and capture Hill 30 with one company in order to clear the way for the passage of the CAMERON’s battle transport.
On the evening of 12 Jun 44, the CAMERONS moved up from West of the ORNE bridges into an assembly area just East of RANVILLE and lay up there in the woods. Meanwhile the battle transport assembled in the village under Capt. C.W.R. HILL, ready to move to STE. HONORINE LA CHARDONERETTE when Hill 30 was captured by the DEVONS, and he was called forward by wireless from the Bn.
Everything went according to plan and the way along the tow path was lighted by the glow in the sky from burning CAEN and accompanied by the thunder of the fourteen inch shells of HMS NELSON shelling the town. By 0340 hrs the CAMERONS were forming up along the orchards East of LONGUEVAL and at 0356 hours the barrage opened. To everyone’s consternation however, shells began to fall thick and fast on the Start Line so that when the Bn left it at 0400 hours companies had already suffered casualties and become disorganised. Further casualties were suffered crossing the open cornfields from LONGUEVAL to STE. HONORINE by Spandaus firing from the right flank. In fact, Bn HQ moving with the wireless in the C.O.’s jeep along the track had to take to the cornfields in order to reach the safety of the wall running round the orchards North West of STE. HONORINE. Here a number of prisoners left by the leading companies were picked up and sent back by road to RANVILLE as nothing could move towards LONGUEVAL for fire from the South. A number of these prisoners were Czechs and Poles and were only too glad to be captured but the NCOs were the most arrogant type of Nazis.
At about 0445 hours Major G.A. NIXON, MC, commanding B Company, sent a signal by wireless indicating that he had captured his objective, the North East corner of the village. Soon after Major E.N. MAINWARING, MC, commanding D Company, next on the right, sent a similar signal and Bn HQ thereupon moved along the wall of the orchard to the position marked by the St. Andrew’s Cross on the plan. From there the signal calling up the Bn transport was sent and as soon as it arrived three A/T guns were sent into the village to consolidate the positions secured by B and D Coys.
Wireless touch had been lost with A and C Companies whose objectives were the South West half of the village, but from the sounds of battle it was obvious that the Germans were holding on tight in the houses. By 0730 hours everything was quiet and Colonel MONRO walked round the positions with the conviction that the village was completely in our hands.
The Bde Comd had arrived at Bn HQ by this time and the success signal was sent; the time for exploitation by the 2 SEAFORTH Southwards past the East of STE. HONORINE was fixed for 0915 hrs.
About 0800 hours a sharp counter-attack by infantry was repulsed by D Coy but at about 0845 hours the most vicious shelling and mortaring descended on the whole village causing many casualties including the adjutant, Capt. E.P.M. BROWN and the Carrier Officer, Capt. J. ELLIOT, MC. About 0930 hours the shelling ceased abruptly and a heavy attack by infantry developed from the South, supported by 14 tanks. Owing to the walls, thick orchards and high corn, only two A/T guns were in a position to engage these tanks which moved forward about 600 yards East of the village and blasted it while the infantry attacked. Sgt. A. MACKENZIE commanding one of the anti-tank guns managed to manhandle it into a position from which he could engage after the carrier rolled the corn in front of the muzzle to clear the field of fire. From this position MACKENZIE engaged and destroyed three Mk IV tanks in succession. In spite of this action however, the infantry came on to such effect that A, B and D Coys withdrew, A and D towards LONGUEVAL and B over Hill 30 to RANVILLE. Wireless touch had been lost with C Company and

- 2 -
It was impossible to order C Company to withdraw and as stick grenades were beginning to come over the orchard wall into Bn HQ it withdrew also on to the original Start Line covered by D Company.
C Company were given up as lost and heavy artillery fire was brought to bear on STE. HONORINE. This lasted until about 1200 hours when an ominous silence fell over the village, and those watching from the LONGUEVAL orchards wondered what could be left of C Company among the ruins. To everyone’s surprise however, about 1300 hours, Lt. W.C. CHALMERS arrived across the cornfields saying that Major H.W. CAIRNS with the remnants of C Company was still holding out in a house and that the whole village was clear of the enemy. This was immediately reported to Brigade but it was decided not to re-occupy STE. HONORINE but that the Bn should relieve the ULSTER RIFLES in LONGUEVAL leaving STE. HONORINE to the dead and the debris of battle. Major CAIRNS, Lt. CHALMERS, CSM. CLELAND and 15 men of C Company, had held out in their position for eight hours with the house at times completely surrounded by Germans and being indiscriminately shelled by both sides.
Many of the men of B and Support Companies who withdrew across Hill 30 together with other stragglers were collected in RANVILLE by the QM, Capt. W.M. MILNE, MBE, who was waiting there in the vain hope of bringing up breakfast. Capt MILNE directed these men to assemble in the old Bn area West of the ORNE bridge with the result that for some hours small parties of men were seen crossing the bridge in search of the Bn area. There they were reorganised by Major NIXON and brought up to LONGUEVAL at 1500 hours. The relief of the ULSTER RIFLES, however, did not take place that night so the Bn spent the night in the quarries and took over LONGUEVAL next morning.
The Bn casualties in the action were 8 Officers and 107 Other Ranks, of whom 29 were Killed.
It still seems strange to me that they were launched somewhat into the unknown without any armoured or non-organic anti-tank support even though there had been 21 Panzer Division armoured activity to the south of the airborne bridgehead since D-Day.

Regards

Tom

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Richard Sands » 20 Jul 2018 19:19

The attack was originally planned for the 12th. Tank support was requested, but denied and the attack was postponed for 24 hours to the 13th. The second attack on 22/23 June was supported by a squadron of Shermans from 13/18th Hussars, Major Wormald MC. Commanding them.

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Leerhöy » 05 Aug 2018 22:03

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
09 Jul 2010 22:00
1. i imagine the opposition was from 21 Panzer Division but has anyone any idea of strength of the counter attack or any accounts from the German side.
I haven't had time to look into various books and KTB, so the following is ONLY from the few notes I have available, right here and now ;

According to Kortenhaus, the german counter attack included infantry from II/Pz.Gren.Rgt.125, supported by assault guns from Stu.Gesch.Abtl.200, tanks from 4./Pz.Rgt.22 (all three units were 21.Pz.Div.), and artillery from 346.Inf.Div. Kortenhaus (acc. to my notes) mentions, that 3 tanks from 4./Pz.Rgt.22 were knocked out ("415", "424" and "431") and that the CO from 4./Pz.Rgt.22 was killed, when hit by an AT shot.

Kortenhaus mentions that 4./Pz.Rgt.22, after the counter attack, had only 8 tanks remaining, so - IF - this information is correct, 11 tanks from 21.Pz.Div. participated in the counter attack.

At present, I cannot contribute with much information as to the assault guns from Stu.Gesch.Abtl.200.

Re infantry, II/Pz.Gren.Rgt.125, at this time of the operations, east of the Orne, had suffered a lot of casualties. They had been engaged in battle, more or less non-stop, since D-Day. On the 12th LXXXI Korps, in a briefing to AOK 15, (acc. to my notes) stated that II/Pz.Gren.Rgt.125 had only "200 Mann", and generally described Kampfgruppe von Luck as, "einen müden Verband" (worn out).

The LXXXI Korps diary mentions that the attack on the 13th was stopped, and the tanks pulled back to the starting line, due to lack of infantry. It is interesting to note that LXXXI Korps, on the 13th, (acc. to my notes) points out to 346.Inf.Div that the counter attack by Kgr. von Luck/21.Pz.Div must only be supported by artillery, and that infantry units from 346.Inf.Div. could not be involved.

Regards

Kim
Interested in anything regarding 21.Pz.Div in Normandy, as well as Opel Olympia OL38 and DKW NZ 350-I in general.

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Re: 1st Battle of Ste Honorine La Chadonerette - 13/6/44

Post by Richard Sands » 11 Oct 2018 17:19

My Fathers company, D Comp, faced infantry and 14 tanks, so there must have been more than 14, given that all 4 companies were counter attacked in various positions. Quote from 5th Camerons historical records page 97. "At about 08.30 hours the enemy opened up some most vicious and concentrated mortar and shell fire on the village. making any movement suicidal. About 08.45 hours heavy machine gun fire was added to this already very heavy concentration, and all wireless sets, less D company, went off the air. 'D' Company reported a counter attack developing on its front with infantry and some 14 tanks". 3 of those tanks were put out of action by a six pounder commanded by Sgt Mackenzie, which won him the Military Medal.

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